Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Red Tax

In my infinite wisdom I had an exchange with a neighbor about the forthcoming Nashville transit plans that while lofty oddly overreaching and yet markedly inadequate.  I spoke with my bus driver about the failures that are far more important, such as sidewalks, crosswalks, street lighting, cross town buses that connect and run daily, the expansion of the Music City Central Train and other needs that are way more important that three different light rail that don't go far enough, have no central stations in the areas outside the city perimeter and in turn a failure to meet the outlying areas that cross county lines and stress the highway system to the max.

This morning the New York Times did an investigative report on why the Subway system is struggling and like all it was lack of funding, dedication and corruption and exploitation of a system that is ingrained into the fabric and culture of New York City.   Transit is like public education, it is used and for some good enough and for others it lacks when one truly needs it.

Coming from Seattle where light rail was decried and in turn over the course of eight years it is undergoing massive expansion as is the rest of the transit system. With it fares increased as does usage as more urban density decries car usage and when needed car sharing is well established via Zipcar, Car2Go and ReachNow.  The idea of the driverless car is not a method of reducing traffic it is simply car share and/or a driverless taxi like the headless horseman.   In Nashville they realize that due to lack of infrastructure and sprawl that many cannot walk to a nearby bus and in turn they are configuring a plan with Lyft to shuttle passengers that have to walk a mile or more to a nearby stop. The fat asses here could use the walk but without sidewalks it is dangerous as the 300 plus that have been killed by vehicles this year and last can advise.  I am sure though driverless cars will avoid said fatalities. 

The neighbor much like some Vanderbilt Professor believes that driverless cars are the future and that light rail cannot keep up with the technology.   Sorry but a train running on an electric track is what dated?  This is the stupidity of the Millennial.  They are stupid.  The BART or the EL in Chicago have survived decades, were cutting edge in turn exist despite it all.  So please tell me exactly how Trolley's which are finding a resurgence are dated?  But when I know more than the men in the room about this subject of which I am passionate the conversation is stilted, one sided and perhaps that explains why men hate my guts and no, I won't watch you masturbate.

The reality is that Nashville is a dump.  It is trying to be something it can never be. The largest construction projects here are all hotels. The average individual in Nashville is undereducated, underemployed and overweight with no health care.  The bulk of the rest of the population are student and those seeking fame in the music industry.   Few who come here for alternative employment leave after their contracts expire.  I have a three year sell by date and with 18 months and counting anywhere is better than here.

I have spent the better part of this time trying to understand why I am so hated and it is simple, people hate smart people and when smart people have a vagina it makes it even more challenging.  I used to try by being funny and polite now I am at times one, the other or both but most of the time I am a raging bitch as I was with my neighbor.  If you are so knowledgeable about transit how come I don't see you at the meetings?  And the likelihood of voting for the system would mean registering to vote so I doubt he has bothered so a no vote is unlikely.

The sadness is that this will be funded  by sales taxes on rental cars (on which I sadly rely), hotel taxes and of course sales tax.  These are the most regressive methods that affect oddly tourists the number one income generator to the city.  If they find themselves taxed out they will not come or they will restrain spending in ways that decrease income.  It is one thing when you go to a large city but a week here is not that great so they better do more to generate money year round than the few events that do draw visitors.   I have a bad feeling all around lately about the real estate issues and other developments that concern me and I feel a crash is coming.  I want to be wrong but I don't see this going on indefinitely.

This article is from 2015 and it tells the truth, nothing has changed here.  And the growth only fuels that belief that if it "ain't broke don't fix it".  Welcome to a red state when you live here you live in the red.

Congratulations Tennessee: You’ve Got the Most Regressive Tax System in America

With no income tax and high sales taxes, the state is asking poor people to pay far more than their fair share.

Alana Semuels Oct 21, 2015 Business
The Atlantic

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The federal tax system is, on the whole, progressive. Higher-income households pay a higher share of their income in taxes. But some states have done all they can to reverse that. According to a study by economists at the Federal Reserve, Tennessee, Mississippi, and West Virginia have structured their tax codes so that middle and lower-income families pay a bigger share of their incomes than wealthy families do. Many economists, including Thomas Piketty, believe that such systems can make inequality worse.

Tennessee has taken this strategy the furthest: The state has the most regressive tax system in the country, according to the study: It has no state income tax (though it does tax interest on stocks and bonds) and, instead, the state relies on sales taxes and other fees to fill its coffers, although many luxury items are tax-free. Additionally, attorneys’ fees, services such as haircuts and massages, and goods for horses and airplanes are all tax-exempt.

“It’s just totally upside down,” said Dick Williams, chairman of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, which has advocated for a state income tax. Williams’ group wants to get rid of the sales tax on food, and close some other tax loopholes. But that’s not the direction things have been going: Last November, voters passed a constitutional amendment that banned the state from levying any income or payroll tax. The measure passed by a margin of nearly two-to-one.

In 2001, Tennessee, facing an unprecedented budget crisis, debated introducing an income tax in the state. Spurred on by conservative talk-radio hosts, 2,000 protesters swarmed the Capitol, screaming “no means no,” and smashed a few windows. Riot police were called in, and a new group was born, Tennessee Tax Revolt. Almost all of the legislators who had publicly supported the income tax were voted out in the next election cycle.

But no income tax doesn’t mean there are no taxes. Tennessee has one of the highest combined local-state sales-tax rates in the country, at 9.45 percent, according to the Tax Foundation.

That ends up hitting people like Joseph Mitchell, 62, pretty hard. I spoke to Mitchell outside of a Kroger’s grocery store in Nashville, where he was unloading a few weeks’ worth of groceries into his trunk. His total taxes for the grocery trip—$10.97.

“It’s a Republican state, so the rich get what they want,” Mitchell told me. “It won’t change until the politics change.”

Mitchell said that he would prefer an income tax to ever-increasing sales taxes and fees. He also wouldn’t mind more taxes on the companies putting up huge apartment buildings and condos in Nashville or on the TV studios that increasingly film there, lured by tax breaks.

“The rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” said Mitchell, a retired educator who is still supporting a family.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. According to the Fed study, tax codes in some states, such as Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin, “substantially mitigate income inequality.” Those states make their tax codes more equitable by exempting basic necessities from sales taxes, and by offering a significant state-level Earned Income Tax Credit.

“If all states switched to Minnesota’s tax code, after-tax wage inequality would fall,” the authors write.

By contrast, a switch to Tennessee’s tax code would significantly increase income inequality throughout the country because of the state’s lack of an income tax and its hefty taxes on food and clothing.

The kicker is that Tennessee’s tax code also isn’t working even by the most pragmatic measure: Is it providing enough revenue for the state to provide adequate public services? The answer is no. For example, booming Nashville is trying to put in public transit, but without an income tax, and local opposition to raising already-high sales taxes, it’s hard to find the money.

“If we had a revenue stream right now for transit, we would be building a transit line,” said Jo Ann Graves, the executive director of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee.

Small towns and counties are struggling to raise revenues, too. Clay County, in northern Tennessee, had to close its school district until it figured out how to raise more revenue. (The county has proposed a wheel tax, which is essentially a vehicle-registration fee, but the vote isn’t until next year.) In August, state agencies were asked to offer cuts of 3.5 percent for the governor’s budget negotiations with the legislature.

To make ends meet, the state and its counties are getting creative, increasing fees for services such as driver’s and marriage licenses. The state recently increased fees for hunting and fishing licenses by 19 percent, and started charging more for birth and death certificates. One county implemented a policy to charge prisoners for things like toilet paper and pants.

Still, one of the hottest topics in Tennessee is a proposal to phase out the Hall income tax, which taxes investments on stocks and dividends. If that passes, Tennessee’s rich would pay even less.

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